Resisting the opinions and emotional climate of the crowd

Mark Sayers describes a problem that many people encounter: “We want the freedom and autonomy of radical individualism while being dependent on the opinions and emotional climate of the crowd.”*

Do you see the tension? We love to think of ourselves as rugged individualists who don’t need anybody else, thank you very much. 

Yet at the same time, many people live with a daily inner turmoil because they depend on what others think about them to make themselves feel good.  

All of this is put under the microscope in social media. We go online, see what everyone else is doing and secretly feel bad that their lives “appear” better than ours do. Then we secretly wonder what is wrong with us. Then we post something which we secretly want others to applaud. Then we secretly mourn when people don’t “like” it as much as they should.

…and the hamster’s heartrate keeps accelerating as he tries to outrun his own wheel.

Reading a daily devotional won’t instantly make you care less about the “options and emotional climate of the crowd.” That takes time. But it does in fact start to happen when we pay more and more attention to what God thinks instead of what other people think.

A much-neglected verse from 1 Thessalonians 2:4 speaks volumes: “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

Maybe you need less scrolling and more Scripture. Maybe you need less crowd-pleasing and more self-reflection. Maybe you’re doing fine.

Either way, basing your value on the “opinions and emotional climate of the crowd” has never been a recipe for success. Just ask Jesus.

“We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”


Notes:

–*Mark Sayers, A Non-Anxious Presence: How a Changing and Complex World Will Create a Remnant of Renewed Christian Leaders (Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2022), 153.

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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